Mr. Louis Kleinstiver
Technical Services Director
National Truck Equipment Association
37400 Hills Tech Drive
Farmington Hills, MI 48331-3414

Dear Mr. Kleinstiver:

You have asked me to explain the effect of differing State and Federal definitions of school buses on the obligations of vehicle dealers.

The Federal definition of "school bus" affects the scope of the Federal requirements only, while the definitions of the various States affect the scope of State school bus requirements only. The Federal definition determines which new vehicles sold or leased by dealers are required under Federal law to meet the Federal motor vehicle safety standards for school buses. The definitions of the various States determine which vehicles are subject to the State operational requirements for school buses.

Under Federal law, a "bus" is any vehicle, including a van, that has a capacity of 11 persons or more, including the driver. A bus is a "school bus" if it is to be used to transport children to and from school or school-related events.

If a State chooses to define "school bus" to include only buses with a capacity of 16 persons or more, that definition would not affect the obligations of dealers in selling or leasing 11 to 15-person buses under Federal law. If a dealer sold or leased a new bus of this size for school transportation, the dealer would nevertheless have to ensure that the bus was certified to the Federal motor vehicle safety standards for school buses. A dealer selling or leasing a new bus for school use that does not meet the school bus standards would be subject to a civil penalty.

As you requested, I am enclosing two question-and-answer sheets about school bus issues, one of interest to motor vehicle dealers, and another of general interest. I am also enclosing copies of two interpretation letters. The first letter, dated December 29, 1977, is addressed to the Kentucky Department of Education, and concerns the applicability of our school bus standards to vans. The second letter, dated November 25, 1985 to Thomas Built Buses, explains that NHTSA considers a Head Start facility as a preprimary Aschool@ for the purpose of NHTSA's school bus standards.

In addition, some vehicle manufacturers have written guidelines to assist their dealers to determine whether vehicles are being sold for use by schools and school districts. Dealers should contact their manufacturers for any such information.

If you have any questions regarding Federal school bus requirements, please contact Ms. Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992.


Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel

Enclosures ref:571.3 d:4/17/96